The young woman beams nervously, slides her jacket down her arms to hang it over the back of the chair. Caroline’s smile vanishes, her face turning into a study of downward angles. “I’m afraid the interview won’t be necessary after all,” she says, and stalks out of the room.
Becca turns her sympathetic gaze to the fresh-faced hopeful. “Sorry, but it’s your tattoo, Caroline hates tattoos, won’t have them at the office at all, won’t hire anyone with a tattoo, period.”
“Well, who wants to work for a picklepuss like that anyway,” the girl snaps back.
Each week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This week’s vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe is in response to the cue “pickle.” Fun sixes from other writers are at the link. Come join us! It’s fun!
I have been awake since 1:27 a.m. Many times there is no good reason for this stupid insomnia, but this time there was a specific reason: It’s too friggin’ hot in my house to sleep. It doesn’t often get into the 80’s in the Puget Sound area, so very few homes have air conditioning, which is fine because you usually don’t need it. Fresh air and fans will usually do the trick. The problem here is that when we first looked at moving in to the place we’re now renting, we were told several things were going to be fixed, among them the small and very rickety balcony overlooking the backyard.
We listened to those things we were told, because the house is a gorgeous 1910 number, with lots of character, and probably a ghost, and we wanted to believe these things would be fixed, and because we were idiots.
We were midway through last summer’s heat wave (six or seven days in the 80’s) when we figured out that even if we weren’t allowed to use the balcony, we could still open the door leading to it and get a lovely draft through the place, cooling it off enough to actually get some sleep. When Frank*, the guy who runs the property management company that oversees our place, saw that door open, he immediately accused me of breaking the lock. I am a short, round, rather matronly-looking sort of woman of a certain age. Do I seriously look like I know how to break deadbolt locks? Your doofus of an assistant told you he locked it, but he did not. The guy paints door hinges, okay? Not that competent. All I had to do was turn the doorknob.
Anyway, almost a year after we moved in, I made a hundred-dollar bet with the Tominator that the deck will never be repaired, at least not at a time when it will actually benefit us. Sure enough, because that’s how magic works, right after we shook on it, after a year of telling us over and over that “it’s scheduled to be done soon,” Frank finally started working on the deck. Although he did tear down the railing and rip up the boards that constitute what actually makes it a balcony, the major part of this seems to have been locking the deadbolt, since somehow I manage to look clever enough to be a B&E expert while at the same time looking stupid enough to try to use a balcony that has no railings and no floor. Now we can’t even open the door to get the nice draft. It was 82 degrees here yesterday. My bedroom is an oven, and I can’t sleep in an oven, even right next to an open window with two fans blowing on me. I’m pissed.
I still plan on winning the bet, though, since Frank has done absolutely nothing else for a good three weeks now.
So, to occupy the hours that are always so endless during the agony of a tired but sleepless night, I have come up with a mathematical formula to figure out when our balcony will be usable again and at what point I can collect my benjamin from the Tominator.
Frank told us the deck would be finished with two weeks of solid work. He has also explained that he does not do “that kind of work” on Fridays, for whatever reason, and he doesn’t do any work on weekends. That leaves 4 days in a week when he will do “that kind of work” or any kind of work. In Frank language, that’s 8 days of actually doing something. Sounds good, right? Eight days, that’s nothing, right?
As we have seen over the last year, he will also not work on the deck if there is even the slightest chance it will rain. If there is a 5% chance that it might sprinkle 87 drops of rain, he won’t do so much as measure a two by four. He claims that you can’t do construction-type work in the rain, and I call bullshit. This is the Pacific Northwest, the Puget Sound. If he’s right, how in the hell did anything ever get built here at all, since ever? But his contention does give me another number to work with. This area gets measurable rainfall 155 days out of the year, which simplifies to 31/73, or about 3 days out of each week. So that’s three more days when Frank is guaranteed to not show up to get anything done on this project.
But this is where the math gets tricky, and maybe I’m being unfair. It’s entirely possible that those three rainy days could be the same three days of Frank’s automatic long weekend. I’m pretty sure there’s an equation for that. I probably learned it in my sadistics –er, my statistics class that I hated. Well no, it’s not accurate to say I learned it. Let’s say it was probably covered, and all I took away was the vague impression that I should have learned it. I spent much of my time during that class chanting my “All I need’s a 2.0, all I need’s a 2.0…” mantra and just keeping my head down. I pulled off a 2.5 and said, “Booyah!” and fist-bumped the sky.
The point is, while I’m sure it’s possible to combine those two probabilities to come up with a fairly accurate number to work with, I don’t know how to do it and I don’t care enough to remedy that. Frankly, Frank does not deserve that kind of effort or credit from me. He did show up Monday long enough to re-key the knob and deadbolt locks to our basement/laundry area so our key would work in both of them instead of just one, and now our key works in neither of them. That’s a debit in the Home Repair ledger. We are not able to push our hallway bookcase flush with the wall because we need to be able to string hair dryer and beard trimmer and straightening iron cords from the bathroom across the hall to the outlet behind said bookcase, because our bathroom outlet doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked since about a week after we moved in, last June. He finally came around to look at it in February. It still doesn’t work, and now there’s an ugly strip of wall missing that his “electrician” left that way and nobody has fixed, for another net loss in the Home Repair ledger. The linoleum around the shower has still not been fixed, the central heating unit still doesn’t work, and there are no screens on about half the windows so even when we can get a nice breeze on hot days, we also get a crapton of bugs, and I’m still waiting for a bird to fly in here and give me heart palpitations and shit on the carpet and cause Lilly the Fat Dog to destroy everything trying to get it because she is a golden retriever and, therefore, a bird dog. We were also told our yard was going to be leveled and re-sodded, way back when. Ha ha ha. The Tominator, just yesterday, dug a hole in an obscure place and used the dirt to fill in the worst hole in the pathway to the gate, the hole that has been trying to break my ankle on a daily basis since I’ve lived here.
Basically, we live here in self-defense mode, and if it’s something small yet annoying enough, we just fix it ourselves. Because, you know, we’d like to have it fixed. And it’s such a cool house. And ghosts.
The point is, Frank gets no slack from me. Three-day-weekend no-deck-working-on moratoriums plus no work on rainy days has us down to 1 day a week when he might conceivably work on making our home somewhat like we were told it was going to be when we moved in. One day per week times 8 = we can use our balcony in another 8 weeks. Right?
But we’re not there yet! More math! We still have to figure in the fact that our house is on the bottom of the priority list when it comes to anything besides collecting rent, so if someone in another of this company’s houses has a wobbly shelf in the back of the closet, that will be fixed before our front door that won’t close. Then we also have to account for illness, hangovers, sick kids and other family emergencies, vacations, flat tires, a nationwide embargo on eightpenny nails, dogs that eat homework, TSA orange alert days, flash flood watches, and days when he just doesn’t fucking feel like doing it, which I am guessing is all of them.
There is a small mitigation factor. Frank has ruled that we have to keep the space beneath the balcony clear for his tools and supplies, but I say bullshit to that, too. That’s where our huge pots of roses (that’s what the picture is for!) and peonies and foxglove live, and I’m not displacing them to keep clear a workspace that is never worked in. If me not keeping the space clear means he’ll magically show up to work and be annoyed with us and we have to drag our flora back out of the way, that’s fine. At least it got him here.
I won’t bore you with any more mathematical details and besides, it’s getting enormously complicated, such that only I, with my 2.5-in-statistics mathematics expertise, can understand. Let’s just skip right to the solution. I showed my work.*
My final calculations tell me our balcony will be usable on September 27, 2053.
I fully expect to be dead by then, which means I won’t even be able to collect my $100 from the Tominator.
*His name really isn’t Frank. I’ve changed it to protect his identity, and also because his name is really Brian, and I’ve liked virtually all of the Brians I’ve known in my life, but I can’t recall a single man named Frank I’ve admired, including the one I dated very briefly and dumped for being a jerk, but not before he pointed out to me that douchebags in movies always seem to be named Frank. He’s right.
**OK, not really. That picture is from animationoptions.com. But it looks just like my work.
Look, I’m not one of the very relatively few who really really do have celiac disease, nor am I one of those bandwagoners who jumps on every food fad there is, no matter how terrible it tastes. But I still don’t understand why you find it necessary to promote your absence (“a gluten-free food!”) on the package of figs I just bought. Anybody with any sense knows figs are fruit, not a cereal grain. But I am given to understand you only do this in America. Why? Do you think Americans are stupid or something?
A Concerned Consumer
Dear Concerned Consumer,
Of course I think Americans are stupid. Look who you just elected as your president.
Dear Annoying Bus Passenger,
Why do you jump to the front of the line to get on the bus first, when you don’t know if the bus even goes where you want, and you don’t know how much the fare is and you have no idea where your small bills and your change are, leaving the rest of us shivering and dripping in the rain and wind while you figure out north from south with the driver and search all your pockets and bags for your money and still don’t have the right fare?
A Prepared Commuter Who Knows Where She’s Going and Must Be On Time
Reread your own letter. You answered your own question. I’m here in one place where I don’t know where I am, trying to get to another place where I still won’t know where I am. I’m anxious. I’m afraid. What if it costs too much? What if I’m at the completely wrong stop on the wrong street at the wrong end of town? What if the driver treats me like an idiot and is mean to me? What if I completely screw it up and end up in Spokane? This is an ordeal, and I can’t wait. I’m dying here. I need to just get it over with. Why are you making it worse for me? Look, these buses don’t make change, so I’ll give you this twenty if you’ll pay my $3.25 fare with your special little bus card, and you can have Starbucks on me. I’m sorry.
Shirley from Toledo
Dear Computer Industry,
What is up with toner.
We live in a society where we can send a bonkjillion bits of information completely around the world in seconds, land a spacecraft on a rock in the middle of outer space, and print working cars, for crying out loud. Why can you not come up with a toner cartridge that doesn’t get black shit all over everything?
I first asked this question more than 30 years ago, when you and some Xerox toner ruined my fabulous new white pencil skirt that made me look like Marilyn Monroe from the back if you squinted your eyes right. I have neither forgotten nor forgiven the loss of that skirt.
I’m still waiting for an answer.
Yours in frustration.
Yeah, we don’t get it either. That and the common cold.
I’ve always been scornful of those bathroom phone people. You’ve heard them, blathering away in the next stall. I’ve always laughed at them a little as I tinkled away merrily, fastidiously avoiding hand-to-face activities. I laughed at the end of the conversations I could hear, and tried to imagine the gist of the whole thing to use as writing exercises, and would think loftily that you’ll never catch me admitting to the Sprint guy that I need a new phone because I dropped mine in the toilet. Not to mention the types of germs…well, I said I wasn’t going to mention it, so I won’t.
Except now I’m one of them.
It’s a lifestyle thing, I now realize. At least for me. My new job has a strict no-phones-at-the-desk rule, because all day long I have people’s health care information splayed across two monitors, and I just might be dumb enough to accidentally enter my phone’s security code and then accidentally push the camera button and then accidentally take a picture of some woman’s Social Security number and her bill for chlamydia treatment, and then accidentally tweet it. I know I am not that dumb, but a lot of things have happened lately that I’d have thought impossible, so there it is. The only time I can quick-check email and text messages and see what’s up with my tribe is on my breaks.
I have become a toilet texter.
It’s still better, though, because I finally figured out how, post-election, I can stand to be on Facebook once again. I know, I know, a woman’s place is in the resistance, and I need to be aware of what’s going on, and write to my representatives and call my representatives, and I would have been all over the Women’s March if I hadn’t ruined my knees and feet with decades of awesome shoes.
I am proud to know a dozen women who did march, and I’m very much aware that they marched for me as well as for them, they marched for every woman in this country, every woman in the world, and they are amazing and I love them for it. I’m still sorry I couldn’t do it too. That’s one of my regrets – in my life, I’ve never taken part in a protest. I suppose I could do a sit-in.
Anyway, I was avoiding social media after the election because I simply cannot take any more of that goddamned fuuuugly orange mug. It makes me feel physically ill. Literally. I do stay informed, from established, trusted sources including the Seattle Times and the Washington Post, the BBC and NPR. I don’t want to see Der Pumpkinfuhrer on Facebook partly because it’s social media, where I connect with people I like, to talk about things we like and see my horoscope and pictures of llamas and other people’s sunsets and desserts and shoes I can no longer wear, but mostly because if people are going to post about the White Kanye then I’d prefer it to be from reliable sources, and I can’t take any more stupid memes and dubious news articles from the likes of Brietbart and Buzzfeed. I don’t need alternate facts when the real facts are bad enough. (You’ll notice I picked clickbait news sources from each slant of the political spectrum. I try to be fair about this stuff, and it’s too easy for any of us to go with news that reinforces how we already think rather than swallow distasteful information, no matter how accurate. This is important. I cannot stress it enough.)
My return to Facebook is possible because of this awesome Chrome extension I found that blocks our Asshole in Chief when you’re net-surfing. I know, right? Want to know how well it works? When I was previewing my last blog post prior to publishing, the sentence I wrote about Captain Chaos didn’t even show up, and I thought WordPress was wigging out, or maybe I somehow wasn’t typing it right. I typed it again. Still not there. So I disabled the blocking extension, and the sentence showed up fine. Enabled it again, and the sentence disappeared. I had to use code names (which are more fun anyway) in order to put this post together for you. And it works with pictures too, so I don’t have to look at that fucking ugly face at all.
So, yeah, I am now a toilet texter. Who’d a thunk it? With everything going on in the world, it gives me a feeling of subterfuge, like my bathroom connections are more nefarious than reading about my friend’s son’s acceptance to a nice college. I’m hunkered down, reading and tapping out replies, and it feels like they should be in code. The moral of the story is to be careful what you laugh at because you think it’s outside all realms of possibility. I mean, really. Me liking someone’s margarita while sitting on my porcelain throne and the Cheeto Jesus shredding the Constitution on what he evidently views as his own throne. What is the world coming to.
The other moral of the story is no matter what kind of shoes you wear or where you check your email, carry on.
*This post is tagged “Kim Kardashian” because, once again, I am amazed that I could miss the silly twit, and I don’t even have her blocked.
It’s been one of those days, after one of those (insomniac) nights. It’s the usual one-of-those-days stuff that happens to everybody, so I won’t splodge all over you. And I’m still pissed off at the election of Das Pumpkinfuhrer, for all the reasons everybody who is pissed is pissed, so I won’t beleaguer those. And I want to be cheered up, and I figure anyone who feels like I do about the whole thing might need to be cheered up too, and a truckload of good stuff has already been written about how all is not lost and how we, as Americans, can dust ourselves off and move forward, and I can’t even come close to what other people have already said so eloquently, so I’m not going to go into that either.
What I did do, was I collected all these awesome Obama/Biden memes from all over, because frankly, they’re the kind of thing we need right now.
And one thing to remember is that no matter how Shitstorm 2016 shook out, we’d still be missing these guys. Both of them.
It took a while to get to the top of the waiting list for this book, that I picked to read for Banned Books week back in October–good Lord, that’s been barely a month. It feels like forever, this Saturday after Shitstorm 2016 is finally over.
And once again, I am left stunned. For one thing, there’s the usual theme of this country’s ugly history of racial inequality being pretty much the only reason to challenge this particular book. And I know I sound snarky. Frankly, I like being snarky sometimes. After this week, when Donald Trump of all people has been elected President and hate seems to be the order of the day, after Leonard Cohen has left us, when my Niners still suck, I’m in a fine fettle of snarkiness. Racism, and the concept of banning books simply because they expose that racism, both beg to be snarked at.
Anyway. Snark over. What a book! This is the story of Grant Wiggins, a black teacher in 1940’s rural Louisiana, and his mission to help another black man, wrongfully condemned to die for a crime he did not commit, to walk like a man (in the words of Frankie Valli) to the electric chair. This is not To Kill a Mockingbird but something even more subtle: The mission is not to win justice, but rather to accept the injustice with as much grace as can be found. The writing’s power is in its simplicity and its clarity, the conversational telling of a story that seems like just another tragic story of bigotry and hatred, and it’s not until you close the back cover that you realize you’ve been thoroughly whopped over the head.
This book makes me want to drive all the way to Texas just to see vast fields of bluebonnets, because stuff like that is important, dammit.
This. This matters. Photo courtesy of John R Rogers, Flickr/CC
Bookshelves: humor, love-story-not-a-romance, philosophy, sci-fi, spiritual, this-is-the-stuff-right-here, end-of-the-world, what-is-it-all-for-anyway, metaphysics, multiple-povs, second-person, read-for-book-club
Everything Matters! is the tale of a man knowing from the womb exactly when the world will be struck by a massive comet and explode into nothing. Currie is funny, philosophical, flippant, matter-of-fact, and bittersweet all at once, as he tells of Junior Thibodeaux’s painful, stumbling journey through what would be an ordinary life were it not for his unique knowledge, his terrible secret. Poor Junior is riddled with doubt at every turn, alternating between anxiety at the idea that every little thing matters, from despair at the thought that nothing does. I’ve always enjoyed multiple POV’s when they are well done, and the second person viewpoint especially is stellar here, when God or the Universe or the Collective Consciousness or whatever it is speaks to Junior at various times. Sci fi, spirituality, philosophy, metaphysics, and the questions of fate and destiny come together without smacking you over the head with preachiness or feel-good woo-woo, a tough trick that Currie pulls off flawlessly. The butterfly effect and chaos theory make a nice appearance–step on a bumblebee with your bare foot, or don’t, and change whether someone’s cancer will be found at Stage 2 or at Stage 4, thirty years later.
There were a lot of passages that stayed with me:
Whom you take out a mortgage with is mostly an accident of geography and economics, and has nothing to do with destiny.
“You’re going to end up with rabies,” I said. He shrugged, like What does it matter? He’s always doing that. It pisses me off. He hasn’t earned the right to be so world-weary.
But these tests disclose nothing, because no test has yet been invented that can reveal a patient is suffering from the soul-dread caused by knowledge of the impending end of all existence.
and my personal favorite, the spot-on description of how I felt most of the way through a six-year run of the most horrific case of insomnia ever, aggravated by intense anxiety and near-suicidal depression:
…a buzzing stupor of protracted sleep deprivation, a semipsychosis exacerbated by grief and fear.
There are deeper quotes than those but to me, they give too much away. Read it! Depressing and uplifting by turns, this book made me want to laugh and to cry at the same time.
Poutine: dish originally from Quebec, Canada, consisting of French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. It’s probably tasty, but the word “curd” sounds gross to me. Maybe because it rhymes with “turd,” I don’t know.
Integument: tough protective outer layer, as on an animal or plant
Shigella: Bacteria found in many primates, including humans, some of which cause dysentery
Boca Fairy Duster: Not a new word but a new flower, native to the Baja Peninsula. Crimson starburst on a bush.
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